Thursday, May 08, 2003

Coming out of Edith Pargeter's Brothers of Gwynedd Quartet is like surfacing from a mountain lake--everything is bright and loud and strange, and you've forgotten you're not a fish. By any other hand, Pargeter's writing style would be melodramatic and overdone, but instead it is magical and hypnotizing, describing people too beautiful to live and delving deeper into characters than one ever thought possible. This has been on my list of favorites since I first discovered it as a teenager, and this recent reading proves it even better than I remembered.

The four books span the lifetime of the second Llewelyn, Prince of Wales, who sought peace and unity for his country and lost it all through no fault of his own. His loyal companion and birth brother, Samson the clerk, is the narrator of these events as well as a minor protagonist himself, weaving his own tale of unrequited love throughout the tragedy of the brothers of Gwynedd.

It's so difficult to review books such as this because the plotline is historical (and thus not easily summed up) and because every sentence seems traitorous to the true beauty of the work. My greatest reaction to this reading was towards those left behind at the end, the families of Llewelyn and his brother David, who were unfortunate not to die in that they were kept miserable for the rest of their lives with only memories of the greatness that had briefly shown among them. At least in fiction, one has the luxury of imagining happier endings for tragic characters, but my heart was wrenched at the realization that all this really happened, and all those beautiful children were locked away from the world because of their fathers' sins.

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